We all know that in many movies sets with a white director and a white crew, the Black actors and the characters they portray tend to get the short end of the stick. To DeWanda Wise’s surprise, this wasn’t the case on the set of the new Jurassic World Dominion movie.
In an interview with Variety, Wise and her co-stars Laura Dern, Bryce Dallas Howard recounted their time on set during the height of the pandemic. The trio were quarantined together for five months and grew closer through the experience. Wise also shared how nervous she was on set, playing a new role to the Jurassic World franchise.
Her character, Kayla, wasn’t originally supposed to be a Black woman. In fact, there was very minimal details to the character before DeWanda Wise was casted. Once director, Colin Trevorrow saw Wise in Netflix’s “She’s Gotta Have It,” the character was fully fleshed out and took shape. The actress came to the table with a background on the character that expands past what is shown on screen: She’s an Air Force veteran with a legacy of military service, from Detroit and bisexual.
“I always think it shows up [on screen]; you can feel the difference between a character who’s one-dimensional and one who clearly has had an entire life before she has met any of these people.”
Trevorrow’s first question to DeWanda was her preference for Kayla’s hair style. When Wise responded that Kayla should have braids, the studio immediately hired Josee Mampuya, owner of Josee’s Professional Braiding Studio in North London to style the character’s tresses. “The experience of getting them was Black womanhood at its finest,” Wise said in the interview. “It was — as it is — a deeply fulfilling spiritual ritual, a precious thing. It just felt like having family there with me in the process.”
Wise was also very adamant about certain developmental aspects of her character. She noted that Kayla’s bisexuality had to be naturally expressed but clearly defined. “It’s important to continue to expand and diversify what [sexuality] looks like, what it means,” Wise shared. She went on to explain that diversity and representation should be felt within the character and should not be forced on to the audiences. Which leads into why she wanted to make sure Kayla didn’t fall into the “strong Black woman” trope. Kayla should be portrayed as a woman who saves the other characters in the film because of her own moral code, not because she is the super hero who comes and saves a bunch of white women she does not know.
“It was very important to introduce a new hero who could potentially define the future of this franchise,” Trevorrow said in reference to Kayla. “We’ve had the opportunity to hopefully make someone that young girls are going to be dressing up as at Halloween for years to come.”
We are looking forward to seeing the Black girl magic on screen in Jurassic World Dominion! The film premieres in theaters June 10th.